Dedicated wrist-worn timepieces can be unquestionably beautiful (the Blue Ocean Watch or Zenith's Defy Xtreme, for example) but today's discerning gadget-lover requires much more from their wrist candy. The iPod Nano can already be made into a pretty decent digital watch but it doesn't (yet) have built-in Bluetooth connectivity so can't connect with the ever-present smartphone like the various flavors of the I'm Watch can. Smartwatch veterans Bill Geiser and David Rosales have just launched a consumer version of their open source, developer-focused, Bluetooth-connected watches. The STRATA is being billed as the first iOS 6-compatible smartwatch on the market and has already more than doubled its funding target on Kickstarter just a few days after its campaign launch.
STRATA is not a wrist communicator itself but a sportwatch designed to wirelessly connect to an iPhone 4S, third generation iPad or an Android smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 technology. It's also not the first smartwatch from Geiser and Rosales, and not the only one to undergo Kickstarter crowd-funding this year – the Pebble attracted over US$10 million in funding but has just suffered its first shipping delay. However, it is claimed to be the first to be compatible with iOS 6.
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Once linked to a device via Bluetooth, the smartwatch can notify the wearer of incoming calls (with caller ID), SMS text messages, emails, and social network notifications from the likes of Twitter and Facebook, with a vibrating alert. Users will still have to reach for the smartphone if they want to take a call but it can stay in the pocket, pouch or purse if letting the call go to voicemail.
The combination of vibrating alert and at-a-glance notifications has been coined "Hands Freedom" by the development team, who have notched up years of developmental experience in the smartwatch market. Founders Geiser and Rosales have been creating smartwatches for the last eight years as part of Fossil's Watch Technology Division and building the MetaWatch platform for the past two years. They broke away from Fossil in August 2011 to form Meta Watch and headed to Kickstarter a few days ago to help bring STRATA to market.
When the watch is first paired with a smartphone, the time from the phone is transferred to the watch, and STRATA then maintains the time from that point on (although manual time/date set is also possible). In addition to showing the time and date, on-screen widgets can be chosen to display information on the weather, appointments, stock prices and more. The widgets can operate even if the paired smartphone is out of range or not connected, and will update the information on display when linked up again.
The company has also developed an app that sits on the smartphone and drives most of the preset display formats on STRATA's always-on, sunlight-friendly 96 x 96 pixel mirror polymer network display. Third party app developers and independent hackers alike will be pleased to note that STRATA's open source embedded watch code is ready and waiting for user tweaks, personalized template designs or custom creations, and iOS and Android SDKs are available from Meta Watch.
Other attractive features include a lost phone alarm that can prompt a forgetful user to remember to grab the paired smartphone before leaving the house, the ability to wirelessly control music playback, and users not wishing to disturb the rest of the house with a bedside alarm will appreciate having a vibrating alarm on the wrist.
The 42 x 42 x 14 mm (1.73 1.73 x 0.55-inch) body and strap are made from double injection molded PU co-molded with a PC poly case, and a mineral hardened glass lens with anti-glare coating is surrounded by a stainless steel top ring finished in titanium. The sportwatch has a water resistance rating of 5 ATM (73 psi) or 50 meters (164 feet) that makes it suitable for wearing while swimming but not diving (although the wireless connection to the TI 2564 Bluetooth radio will drop off when the watch is submerged).
There's a running and cycling app bundled with each watch for at-a-glance feedback on workouts (currently compatible with Wahoo Fitness BLE sensors for iPhone 4S), an onboard 120mAh battery that's claimed to offer between five and seven days of use before needing some charging attention via the charging clip and a micro USB cable, and an LED front-light for use in the dark.
Completing the specs list are six buttons for operating the various watch functions, a three-axis KXTI9 accelerometer and an ambient light sensor.
Geiser has just informed us that the hardware has been finalized, the long lead time parts have been ordered and the team is now integrating new Bluetooth profiles into the Bluetooth stack, and the UI and firmware are being upgraded.
Everything is reported to be on track for the first initial shipments to Kickstarter backers in September. Pledges need to be at least $159 to secure a STRATA, which will come in blue/black, tangerine/black, green/black and camouflage/black styling. There's also a limited edition, signed and numbered custom design created by artist and graphic designer Susan Kare on offer for $299.
Geiser and Rosales detail the sportwatch and offer some background in the following Kickstarter campaign video: